Parquet Courts have been the subject of a great deal of attention lately. Some publication whose name rhymes with “gin” named them 2014’s Band of the Year, while another dubbed them “The Last Great New York Band.” They played David Letterman. Their last three albums have received general acclaim, even from some less reputable reviewers. Their sound is supposedly akin to every band worthy of a reference – The Minutemen, Pavement, The Velvet Underground. Grad school dropout lyrics stipple every track with slack stoner wit, and the band fulfills the requisite nowhere (in this case, Denton, Texas) to New York mythology we audiophiles can’t seem to get enough of.
I’ll admit, I’ve been listening to Parquet Courts a lot in the past year. I am keenly aware that I am writing for an online publication about a band whose most recent album is called “Content Nausea,” a track with lyrics like “People clicked and people read/’Modern Life’ is what it said.” I’m duly uncomfortable, and I’m unsure how to best approach a much hyped band that appears ambivalent about its own hype. Shit, the publication is even called “Overblown,” for chrissake. In order to relieve my discomfort, I ventured once again into the squelchy humidity of Gainesville with the decision to answer a simpler question: how much does Parquet Courts rock?
I’ve written previously about shows at The Wooly, and how its capacious interior doesn’t lend itself to quieter shows. Fortunately, that wouldn’t pertain to tonight’s performance. Gainesville stalwarts Cold Waste opened the show, proving once again why they’re the best band in town. Guitarist James Hernandez throttled out sinewy minor chords over the thrum of Kristen Waterman’s basslines. The detached beats of the drum machine served as contrast to the elegiac vocals and spiky post-punk energy of their performance. I remain as impressed seeing them for the fourth time as I did the first.
Locals Soda followed, grunging up the place with their flannelled dissonance. Clear references to Nirvana and Sonic Youth were as evident as the holes in the lead singer Arlington Garret’s Swans shirt. Coed vocals and heavy distortion were anchored by drummer Meredith Kite’s solid timekeeping. I may have ventured out to grab a quick drink and a cigarette with fellow Overblown reviewer Amanda Gaye Smith two thirds of the way through Soda’s set, so I can’t attest to the entirety of the performance. I had a premonition I might need some liquid fortification for the coming onslaught.
When we returned from our brief journey, Tampa popsters Merchandise had taken the stage. Frontman Carson Cox swaggered about the stage like the love child of Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker, nearly every lyric punctuated with a toss of his hair or contrapposto shot of the hip. His voice was no less alluring, sounding like nothing so much a Bruce Springsteen forty-five being played at thirty-three and a third. Evoking Talk Talk and Echo & the Bunnymen in almost equal measure to their 90s college radio references, with engaging guitar hooks throughout, the Merchandise executed an admirable midtempo set. I found myself bopping about to “Little Killer,” and the crowd was responsive. Still, it only served to whet their appetites for the forthcoming main course.
Gainesville lost its collective shit shortly after Parquet Courts began. I can’t think of a song that I wanted to hear – “Ducking and Dodging,” “Instant Disassembly,” the aforementioned “Content Nausea” – all discharged with nary a breath between songs. Gainesville replied to the attack of country-fried Americana punk by slinging beer and stage diving. Though perhaps a bit put upon by the crowd’s antics, Parquet Courts acquitted themselves as the consummate professionals, enduring the frolicking pack impassively. The dynamism was infectious, and I, typically content to stolidly nod at the rear of the crowd, found myself writhing and shouting requests for “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” and “Light Up Gold.” Both were played, undoubtedly to my valiant efforts. By the time they closed with tremendous rendition of “Sunbathing Animal,” I had an answer to my question. Parquet Courts live up to the hype. They indeed rock, with conviction.
Parquet Courts are currently touring the United States, and will be in Australia and New Zealand in March. See them while you can.